FDA Inspections Hold Up Cheese Import Supply
Raw-milk cheese has been under scrutiny in recent years, as federal regulators have attempted to establish a safety standard for the commodity.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched a pilot program in January 2014 to do just that, but it has since plagued producers, importers, and retailers with a high number of samplings and holds on raw-milk cheese varieties produced domestically and abroad. Some in the industry have seen issues with these samplings in recent months, and many are beginning to question the program’s rules and effectiveness.
The FDA says it is using the program to learn more about how 60-day aged raw-milk cheese becomes contaminated with foodborne pathogens, and what patterns, if any, may help predict potential contamination in the future. The agency set out to collect 1,600 samples from American and foreign producers and, as of August, had collected 885. At this time, the collection and testing is slated for completion in January.
As a result of what some in the industry are seeing as ample sampling, importers and retailers have seen three- to five-week holds on imported cheeses, as well as practices that aren’t properly outlined and often changed, all with little communication from the FDA. These issues have meant holes in inventory and already-ripe cheese hitting the shelves during the industry’s busiest time of the year.
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